light into ashes
Oct 5, 2010 12:12am
a brief Bird Song history
From the Festival Express in summer '70, here's Garcia, Weir, Janis Joplin, and Rick Danko singing Ain't No More Cane. Jerry tells Janis, "I've loved you ever since the day I saw you..." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bEHsovtadw
Bird Song was written for Janis within a couple months after she died, and our first version comes from a Crosby/Garcia rehearsal at the Matrix on 12-15-70. They spend some time going over the intro - the song's new to Crosby, and Garcia himself isn't sure how to go from one section to another, so the rehearsal ends quickly after some flailing around!
It had to wait a couple months to be debuted in a Dead show; but was played from February to August 1971. (The Bird Songs from 2-19, 4-28, and 7-31 have been released. The last live 1971 Bird Song, from 8-23, is available on a horrible AUD; presumably the full SBD is in the Vault, but they haven't shared it with us.)
This is a good example of a '71-style Bird Song: http://www.archive.org/details/gd71-04-21.sbd.kaplan.8227.sbeok.shnf
There is one famous acoustic/electric Bird Song....on Garcia's first solo album, recorded in summer '71, with Garcia playing all the guitars (and an organ). This one is introduced with a big crash (the same way they did it on 7-31-71!)...there's not really a jam of course, but there is a nice shimmery Dead-like outro.
(This is also one of the few songs on the album for which there isn't a basic or alternate take on the All Good Things set.)
After Keith joined, they tried it out a couple times at rehearsals, for instance on 9-29-71. This one has an interesting arrangement that starts guitars-only, with bass & drums not coming in til the chorus - Garcia plays a very sweet outro.http://www.archive.org/details/gd71-09-29.sbd.cousinit.16891.sbeok.shnf
But for whatever reason, they dropped it for the next 10 months. The song was dramatically re-introduced on 7-18-72 - Garcia, ironically, starts playing it while Weir explains that Pigpen isn't feeling well... Garcia is a fireball in this show; Bird Song isn't as gentle as it was in '71 - and it now has the 'false start' in the middle jam.http://www.archive.org/details/gd1972-07-18.sbd.miller.32878.flac16
Bird Song was played steadily over the next year until 9-15-73, when they stopped again... Some folks (like me) consider this the peak period for Bird Song. The last '73 version is available only in an AUD, though (perhaps the first-set SBD will appear someday).http://www.archive.org/details/gd73-09-15.aud-sbd.cotsman.16174.sbeok.shnf
Bird Song then disappeared for 7 years until the Dead, on an inspired whim, decided to include it in their 1980 acoustic sets. Here's one good Radio City example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYA16z2-xFg
And here's a (rather dark) video of the very nice 10-16-81 acoustic Melkweg version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJdaePiSUXY
The song crossed back over into their electric sets on 11-30-80, and stayed there til the bitter end. (The ending jam was dropped in this phase, as far as I know.)http://www.archive.org/details/gd80-11-30.sbd-aud.sacks.2416.sbeok.shnf
But while the Dead switched to electric Bird Songs, Garcia kept playing it acoustically with John Kahn from 1982 to 1986. (One of these, from 2-28-86, has been released.)
This is a rather shaky video from this era (1-31-86) that illustrates these quick, ragged Bird Songs. Garcia takes flight in the solo - the way he switches to chords for a stretch reminds me of the 7-31-71 version! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-h8e-lkZMc
And on 12-17-87, Bob Weir joined them for an acoustic set which included Bird Song and, believe it or not, Victim or the Crime... I think pretty much the whole set is on youtube, but here's the Bird Song. (Warning: it's a shortened version, with Joan Baez distracting the players!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZzKKndi4jg
This is another acoustic Garcia/Weir/Kahn version, a bit longer & smoother - I think it's from 3-22-89? This one has the end-of-jam chord series I think started being used in the late '80s.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teIBSOQBWfE
The 9/24/94 acoustic Bird Song is also worth special mention, as the jam goes 'out' much more than earlier acoustic Bird Songs do.